Punishment or prevention?

NEWS that two prolific burglars who raided homes in towns and villages across west Cornwall have been jailed restores faith in the justice system and the speed in which they were apprehended is a testament to our local police force.

Alexander Hughes, 27, from St Erth, and Jonathon Taylor, 29, from Penzance had illegally entered homes in the Helston area last October.

They entered through insecure windows and doors in most cases, however they also smashed their way into one property and amongst items stolen were an Apple iMac computer, jewellery, cash, a GoPro, a drill, a laptop and a North Face jacket, wedding and engagement rings, a coin collection and various watches.

Two of the homes targeted belonged to friends of mine and I assumed that the police would not even attend the scenes and would simply issue crime numbers for victims to make insurance claims for their losses; I was pleased to have made such an incorrect assumption.

The police acted swiftly, attending crime scenes to gather evidence and take statements and soon had the pair in custody and within three months they were beginning sentences with the system.

People can be quick to criticize the police, sometimes justly but often not, and so I feel the efficiency and speed in which this was dealt with should be recognised.

It is believed that the crimes were committed to feed drug habits I am left wondering about the circumstances which has led to them to commit these crimes and question if more could be done to prevent them from happening – either through helping people when they begin down this road or helping them while serving their first sentences.

Our reoffending rate tops 50% but still a significant percentage of the public expect us to throw the guilty into cells and leave them to stew for several years but then act surprised when they commit further crimes on release.

Other countries have a better handle on it – Norway famously gives inmates open access to education, training and skill-building programmes and teaches them how to behave and cope when back in society.

They believe in restorative justice which aims to repair the harm caused by crime rather than punish people, while in the UK we like deprivation and penance but which one is more useful to the rest of society?

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